October Day Retreat: The Alchemy of Karma Yoga

Today’s guest post comes from Pat VanBuskirk, MA, MFT, RYT 500, our beloved yoga & meditation teacher at the Yoga Nook. Pat is leading our upcoming October Day Retreat: 

The Alchemy of Karma Yoga: Taking Yoga Off the Mat
Saturday, October 22
10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Krishnamurti Center
$125*

*Cash or check (made out to Pat VanBuskirk). You may sign up at either Yoga Nook location. Call Pat at (805) 208-5978 with any questions. 


Retreat (verb): 

  1. to go away from a place or person in order to escape from fighting or danger
  2. an act or process of withdrawing, especially from what is difficult, dangerous or disagreeable
  3. to retire or withdraw, as to seclusion or shelter

Retreat (noun): 

  1. a private and safe place where you can be alone
  2. a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation or study

The verb “retreat” means to move away from something that is disagreeable or dangerous, or to still the advance. The noun “retreat” means an actual safe space to reflect and study, alone or with like-minded folks.

A day of retreat offers the opportunity to still the incessant noise of the ego, which can in fact be dangerous — or at the very least, disagreeable. It provides the needed physical space to restore, rejuvenate, repair — and most of all, to remember who YOU are so there is physiological, emotional and mental space for your purpose to come forward.

The Yoga Nook is providing an opportunity for you to retreat and give your deeper Self a chance to be restored. The environment of the retreat is a natural secluded space in Ojai that is dedicated to restoration and reflection: the Krishnamurti Center.

The theme of our retreat is The Alchemy of Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is the yoga of Selfless Action. What that means for us is our ability to note when the habit patterns of the ego are taking control of our path through life, refrain from those patterns, and walk our life’s path with consciousness and integrity — away from the clutches of the demanding egoic self. Ahhh, freedom!

Karma Yoga, or Selfless Action, is inspirational in its philosophy and transformative in practice. The intentional practice of Karma Yoga can bring us to a place of abiding joy (which is our “true” Self), versus momentary pleasure, which is the ego’s addiction!

When we begin to slow down and intentionally retreat to practice stillness in a group of like-minded people — listening to the philosophy and learning to apply the ancient teachings in our current life situation — we can transform our thoughts, our behavior and our life.

At this retreat, we will:

  • practice asana as a means of unlocking blocks to our true Self, thus remembering our authentic Self;
  • practice silence to notice how the ego self demands attention and may lead us to habit patterns that are not necessarily those we want; and
  • learn about our own relationship with Karma Yoga and the practical application of it, both personally and globally.

I hope to see you at the retreat on Saturday, October 22! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at (805) 208-5978.

Many blessings. Namaste.

 

Teacher Profile: Hannah Grasso

It’s that time again! We’re featuring a new Yoga Nook teacher for the month of October: Hannah Grasso. Hannah teaches Sun Salutations at Yoga Nook @ Fifth, Mondays 5:45-7:00 p.m. Her class will be a $10 community class throughout October, so bring a friend and check it out!

Hannah also recently completed doula training, and will be offering a prenatal/postnatal class series in the near future. Be sure to like Yoga Nook on Facebook, where we’ll keep you posted on further details and dates.


How has your yoga practice changed over time? 

My practice has transformed so many times and in so many ways in the 10 years since I walked into my first yoga class. That first day I walked in as a self-conscious little girl, completely consumed by how others perceived me. I had no idea just how deeply this practice would bring me into my own being.

Yoga is still a very physical practice for me, but it is no longer just a means to be thin and flexible. I see the asana as a portal to explore the depths of my soul and identify how I choose to walk in this world.

Are there any particularly memorable or transformative moments in your practice that you would like to share? 

My very first Savasana, which was led by Jeni Winterburn, was so powerful. I had spent the entire class looking in the mirror to see how thin or how good I looked in each pose — never satisfied with what I saw, of course.

When we laid down on the floor to rest, Jeni spoke to the room but I felt like she spoke directly to me. She told me my body was my temple, a sacred place, and that I should treat it as such. I had never laid down just to rest this way, and I certainly had never viewed my body as a sacred temple. Before then it was an empty vessel in which I was unwillingly trapped, and I did everything I could to change it.

I laid there listening to her sweet accent, and I cried. All my self-hate and misunderstanding of what I was left me through those tears. I felt lighter, softer, brighter than I had ever even known I was capable of feeling. And then I drifted off into that sweet sleep-like state of a deep Savasana, where you are simply with your Self, not judging or trying to change anything, just simply being.

Why did you decide to become a doula? 

When I was little, I dreamed of being an OBGYN and literally bringing new life into the world with my own two hands. It wasn’t until I became pregnant with my son that I realized just how beautiful and magnificent it is to bring life into the world with your own body!

I became a doula to help women feel empowered in their birth experience. I want birth to be an exciting and enjoyable moment in their lives instead of one surrounded by fear and the inability to trust their bodies and themselves.

What do you enjoy about working with prenatal/postnatal students? 

I truly believe that the baby’s physical and psychological well-being is enhanced when the mom does yoga during her pregnancy. It helps women become familiar and comfortable with their changing bodies, to grow into the mother they want to be, to prepare their bodies for labor, and to connect with their baby.

When the baby has arrived, there is no better way to stay grounded and connect with the little one than to share that time on the mat together. We lead by example, and over time those babies and children watching Mom do yoga will move and breathe with her, and learn how to control their thoughts and emotions just like she does.

What advice would you share with a student looking to deepen his or her practice? 

Don’t overthink it. Just move from intuition and know when it is appropriate to push harder, draw back or take pause. The more connected you become to your breath, the more connected you will be to your practice and to the experience you are having. Breathe more, think less.

If you could choose one quote that best encompasses your approach, what would it be? 

“In the hopes of reaching the moon, men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.” –Albert Schweitzer

 

It’s Bookworm Month at Yoga Nook!

As autumn approaches, a primal part of us responds to the shortening days. We begin to slow down and ponder indoor activities we can enjoy in the evenings. Why not read some yoga books?

This time last year, I was inspired by the idea of little community libraries. These small book exchanges have popped up in neighborhoods all across the country, and are open to anyone who would like to bring a book or take a book. Some have found homes in old chicken coops; some have built creative and attractive book houses; and I’ve even seen them arranged in old telephone booths.

Several of you have expressed interest in a book exchange at Yoga Nook — a place to bring books with a yoga, philosophy or yoga lifestyle theme that you’ve enjoyed reading. So we have decided to open a space for such an exchange for one calendar month, and see if you enjoy it and use it.

We’re calling our book exchange “Bookworm.” Beginning Saturday, September 17, you may bring books to either Yoga Nook location, browse books that others have left, and take books that you are attracted to as a replacement. Bring a yoga book, take a yoga book. 

Bring your books to class, and be sure to come a little early so you can browse the offerings others have left. Any books remaining after October 17 will be donated to Goodwill.

 

Image credit: Thomas Cizauskas via Flickr (CC)

Cracking My Own Case

This week we’re featuring a guest post from Kim GalbraithYoga Nook teacher and creator of Little Dog Yogawhich offers yoga classes for athletes in competitive sports. Read on for Kim’s story about a rough trip to the dentist, playing “yoga detective,” and not being afraid to ask for a helping hand.

Having completed 500 hours of yoga teacher training at Yoga Nook, I am well aware that holding tension in my body will create contracted muscles. I am also aware that contracted muscles lead to imbalance and dysfunction in the body, which in turn create pain and discomfort.

So when I had dental work done and woke up with severe pain the next morning — not in my mouth, but in my shoulder! — I set out to solve my own case.

Why the heck does my shoulder hurt? Even just standing was painful. My collarbone (clavicle) felt as if it was being pulled down by a 100-pound weight. No matter how hard I tried to relax my right shoulder, the pain would not subside.

I wondered if this was the result of how I held my right arm during the procedure. So I channeled my favorite Forensic Files character and performed my own reenactment, sitting in the front seat of my car to mimic the reclined position at the dentist’s office.

How was my body positioned during the procedure? My right arm was bent at the elbow, and since the armrest was too low, I was holding the arm up and away from my body slightly by lifting my right shoulder. Since the IV was attached to the inside of my forearm, my knuckles were facing out, adding a degree of external rotation in the shoulder joint.

What muscles were responsible for helping me hold this position? Well, the biceps bend the arm at the elbow, while infraspinatus and teres minor help with external rotation. The trapezius and levator scapulae are the primary movers in elevation of the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, which connects to the clavicle; and pectoralis major and deltoid lift the arm away from the body.

Other factors: Since I’m a yoga teacher and I practice pretty much daily, I do a lot of Adho Mukha Svanasanas (a.k.a. Downward Facing Dog). I also broke my right clavicle and dislocated my right shoulder when I was a teenager, so I have some instability in that arm already. I tend to have tight pectoral muscles that try to do more than they should to keep me stabilized in arm balance poses.

So what did I do? I tried to think like Jeni! I implemented my own plan to release the muscles that I identified as tight and contracted. But after attempting this on my own, I wasn’t getting the results I needed. I wasn’t really able to add the resistance necessary to release the tight areas. I needed help.

Thankfully, after only two sessions with Jeni, my pain was 95% gone. Together, with her guidance and my focused awareness, we got those heavily contracted muscles to soften and relax.

The moral of the story? I realized that even though I’ve learned a ton about the human body through teacher training — knowledge that has empowered me to heal myself and support my students — we all need a little help sometimes from our friends and practitioners to promote the healing process.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it. And don’t wait until your pain gets worse — call Jeni!

 

Image credit: University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences via Flickr (CC)